Newsmakers: May 11-17, 2012

Ashton Kutcher’s latest role, Irshad Manji is attacked, and Mitt Romney’s not-so-innocent prank

Newsmakers

Andrew Testa/Rex Features

Students: 1, government: 0

In the first major political casualty of Quebec’s three-month standoff between students and the provincial government, education minister Line Beauchamp has resigned. Beauchamp, who also resigned as vice-premier and MNA, was the incarnation of government intransigence in the face of the strike, which students have waged over proposed university tuition increases. In April, after reaching a tentative agreement with the student associations, Beauchamp boasted how her government hadn’t backed down from its demands during negotiations—a move many saw as the reason the deal fell through. Perhaps more embarrassing, however, was La Presse’s recent revelation that mobster Domenico Arcuri had attended a Liberal fundraiser hosted by Beauchamp in 2009. Michelle Courchesne, who Beauchamp replaced as education minister in 2010, is now back in the hot seat.

Aging baller

Long before he was named general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos was in charge of something else: opening fan mail for the Montreal Expos. On weekends. For no pay. Back in those days, most of the adoring envelopes were addressed to Vladimir Guerrero, an all-star outfielder entering the prime of a Hall of Fame career that would peak during his years as an Anaheim Angel. Today, a decade after being promoted from the mailroom, Anthopoulos is in charge of Canada’s other baseball team—and Guerrero is heading back to Canada. Hoping to inject some veteran wallop into the Jays’ lineup, Anthopoulos signed the aging superstar to a US$1.3-million deal. Now 37, Guerrero will spend a few weeks getting into game shape at the team’s minor league training complex in Florida. If all goes well he should be in the Rogers Centre batter’s box by June. No word yet on who will open his fan mail.

The spitting image

Ashton Kutcher turned heads in L.A. this week, where he appeared dressed as Steve Jobs, right down to the New Balance runners. Kutcher is playing the Apple founder in Jobs, a biopic following his journey from shy hippie to perhaps the foremost innovator of our time.

The most perfect face?

It may not be the beer-battered cod that keeps patrons coming back to the chip shop in Kent, in southwestern England. Florence Colgate, an 18-year-old student who works there part-time was recently named “Britain’s most beautiful face.” Her face has near-perfect symmetry, judges told reporters, displaying the “optimum ratio” between her eyes, chin and forehead. Her large blue eyes, blond hair and full lips likely didn’t hurt.

Not an olive branch

For months Zbigniew Filo’s antics behind the wheel of his white Ford Escort had been driving his neighbours bonkers. So the residents of Lubczyna, a Polish village 400 km west of Warsaw, saw to it that Filo, who is 24 and doesn’t even have a licence, learned of their distress: they planted his car on top of a tree, six metres in the air. A local, who chose to remain nameless, was unsympathetic to Filo’s plight, telling reporters: “Whoever, or whatever, it was, it’s probably a good thing as he was a dangerous driver and could have killed someone.”

Sins of the past

The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney must be wondering if he really wants the job. After months of being vilified by opponents in his own party as a pretend conservative and rich dilettante, the Washington Post last week delved deeply into the former Massachussetts governor’s high school days. As a student at an elite Detroit private school, Romney was something of a prankster, the paper reported. But some of his jokes weren’t so funny, specifically the time he led a group that held down a closeted gay student and cut his hair. Coming just a day after President Barack Obama finally came out in favour of gay marriage, the timing of the story couldn’t have been worse.

Old (testament) school

Baseball is often described as an American religion, but a fundamentalist Catholic school in Phoenix, Ariz., has taken it to another level, forfeiting a playoff game based on its peculiar interpretation of the Bible. Our Lady of Sorrows, which does not accept co-ed sports, refused to play rival Mesa Prep in the state charter schools championship this week because their second baseman is a girl. Fifteen-year-old Paige Sultzbach had sat out during two regular season meetings against the school out of respect for their beliefs, but was unwilling to skip the big game. The path to righteousness is narrow.

Closing in on Joseph Kony

Caesar Achellam, a chief figure in the Lord’s Resistance Army of accused war criminal Joseph Kony, was captured by Ugandan commandos in a riverside ambush in the Central African Republic last week. Although an online campaign to “Stop Kony” has increased awareness of the LRA’s atrocities, social media had nothing to do with his capture. He was caught carrying an AK-47 with eight rounds of ammo after being trailed for a month.

Sacrificial scam

Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean has never shied away from hyperbole, but his windy rhetoric now has people talking about the NHL for all the wrong reasons. Prior to a recent showdown between Washington and New York, MacLean went off on a tangent about heroism, equating firefighters and police who responded to the 9/11 attacks with pro hockey players. The tortured analogy made him an instant Internet punching bag, and MacLean later issued a statement defending himself. “To say he plays like a firefighter or a policeman would instantly conjure the traits an athlete most desires, especially in New York and Washington. There could be no higher praise.” Maybe. But the fact of the matter is that the “guts” players show by blocking a slapshot can’t ever compare to courage that’s required to run into a burning building.

Moderate no more

Canadian author Irshad Manji is used to stirring up controversy. But she may decide to do it closer to home after a harrowing experience in Indonesia. On tour to promote her new book, Allah, Liberty and Love, she was set upon by an angry mob. The militants, who accused the Muslim author of insulting Islam, were armed with metal bars and beat several attendees at a public reading. Manji escaped unscathed, but said her belief that Indonesia is a symbol of “meaningful moderation in Islam” has been shaken. The five-day tour was dogged by security threats and cancellations, and the writer was left scrambling for accommodation when two luxury hotels refused to let her check in. “Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness and pluralism,” said Manji. “Things have changed.”

‘A’ is for absurd

A high school in South West Bedfordshire, in central England, has made it a policy not to correct any more than three spelling errors in students’ work over concerns such disapprobation might hurt their self-esteem. The policy came to light after a resident brought it to the attention of local MP Tory Andrew Selous who, while calling for a debate on the issue, pointed out that “for many, many jobs you need to have a reasonable standard of spelling. There are probably thousands of schools across the country that have got this policy, but actually it’s a false kindness and we are letting our children down.”

Fall gal

In the wake of JPMorgan Chase’s banking catastrophe—which saw them lose $2 billion on risky trades over the past six weeks—one of the highest-ranking women on Wall Street has had to walk away from a 30-year career in the financial sector. Ina Drew, 55, was chief investment officer for the risk-taking bank, whose CEO Jamie Dimon has been a strident opponent of increased regulations on banking investments. Last year, the bank spent $10 million lobbying to weaken a rule that would ban risky trades like the one that just cost it $2 billion.

Super gran

Helen arrived at a Burnaby, B.C., mall for a lesson on how to use her computer. The 91-year-old, who requested her surname not be used, ended up teaching a lesson of her own. Seeing an opportunity to nab something from an old lady, a 42-year-old woman grabbed Helen’s purse and ran. The nonagenarian pursued. “I just thought, ‘Oh, no you don’t—I want that back,’ ” she told the Vancouver Province. Helen chased the woman into a cluster of cops, where the would-be thief was busted.

Tears of the daughter

“Mom, I know you can hear me now, and I am confident that you will return to us,” a teary-eyed Yevgenia Tymoshenko told an anti-government protest in Kiev, demanding the release of her mother, Yulia, Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader.

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